Language matters. For hundreds of years, the oppressor has used language to prolong his system of injustice and assert dominance over his victims. But by reclaiming language, the oppressed have fought back. The LGBTQ community transformed “queer” from a slur into a proud label of inclusivity. The brutality of the n-word was reclaimed by African-Americans into slang for colloquial endearment. And now in 2017, this linguistic clash extends to the construct of gender. As language rapidly evolves, we are no longer confined by strict terms like him/her that only serve to divide. And the latest battleground in our lingual war is Latino/Latina, words that have been rendered obsolete by the gender-neutral birth of Latinx.
And once I figure out how to pronounce the term, I’m going to get really offended when white people don’t use it.
No longer will we separate dignified Latinos and Latinas. Gone are the days when we were shackled by the heavy burden of the conquistador’s violent vernacular. We are born anew with the fierce potency of language created for us, by us. And we will march against the status quo… once everyone on campus stops laughing at me for saying it wrong. Do you end it on a hard eks? Or is the x said separately, like a Guatemalan who joined the Nation of Islam? I really need some help on this.
Figuring out how to pronounce “Latinx” will be arduous, but nobody ever said changing the world would be easy. As a people, we must rise together as one. Cooperation, mi gente, is what will push us forward. Whether you are Mexican or Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Venezuelan, people of Latin descent must unite as one. Wait, are Brazilians Latin, or are they Hispanic? One of those labels includes Portuguese speakers and I can’t remember which is which. God dammit, this always happens to me.
Those in power use language to vilify the weak, but we are anything but timid. We are a people who have faced centuries of adversity since the first Spanish ship landed on our shores, bringing with it an entirely gendered language. A language that even assigns gender to inanimate nouns. Hmmm. Am I being problematic if the majority of Spanish speakers across the world are unable to speak an Americanized version of this language? My grandpa recently referred to my sisters and I as “Mexicanos” at dinner. Technically speaking, he was right since that covers male Mexicans and female Mexicans… and really Mexicans of whatever non-binary gender of which they identify. So when I yelled at him at that Denny’s, was that not woke? Am I no longer woke? Have I become unwoke?
Oh boy. I haven’t been this confused since I thought the third syllable in “Latin@” was the sound of 56k dial-up modem.